5 Ways To Cope With Failure, Setbacks and Bad Training Days in Crossfit

Bad days, missed lifts and setbacks are all part of the process when it comes to Crossfit and training. Here are 5 ways to get through them and not let them get you down.

Working out is always a fight, especially for Crossfitters – Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and bad training days, setbacks and less than ideal results at a competition are bound to happen to everybody at some point. But although we know that defeats and failure are a part of life, we tend to struggle coping with these „bad days“.

It is just way too easy to let yourself drown in self-pity rather than analyzing what may have gone wrong, or even to just move on from there. However, you don’t have to surrender yourself to those feelings of frustration. These five tips will help you bear this annoying, but necessary part of Crossfit and progress in general.

1. REMEMBER WHERE YOU CAME FROM

When I started Crossfit, I had been working out moderately for a year or so. I couldn’t do a proper squat, push-up or skip, even before I had to start on all the other things I had to learn.

What I want to tell you here is this: We all come from humble beginnings. Everyone of us had to start somewhere.

So if you’re having a bad day at the box and all your training buddies are way ahead of you, just remember what shape you were when you started Crossfit. Even if you did a crappy time during a workout or didn’t complete as many rounds during an AMRAP as you planned on doing, remember how far you have already come – and that everybody has a bad day now and then.

2. CELEBRATE THE SMALL VICTORIES AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF

Celebrate your small victories. Adding a pound or two more onto your lifts, or being a second faster at a certain WOD is still a victory if it is better than last time.Being happy about each small step forwards will help you feel good about yourself.

Although this is more of a preparation thing that won’t help you after a bad workout, you can try to prevent these days from happening if you challenge yourself during each workout. Commit to giving it your all every time you start a WOD at your box and you won’t have a true reason to be frustrated even if you didn’t beat your time.

In this context, the following quote comes to mind, and is applicable to a WOD or lift that might not go as planned:

If you try, you can lose. If you don’t try, you have already lost.

What you should remember here is that if for example you don’t feel well, or you’ve had a bad day at work, this doesn’t mean your workout has to go badly. Start with a clean plate when you walk in the Box, regardless of what happened during the day.

Challenge yourself. Put a little more weight on. Try harder. Because if you go easy on yourself, you will become prone to frustration – just like when you use bad food for compensation. But if you challenge yourself and you win, you are bound to feel a lot better. And if you fail, you can at least admit that you tried and didn’t give in.

3. KEEP A TRAINING DIARY TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

This tip is about preparation and preventing frustration from occurring. If you use a training-diary to track your progress, it will help you a lot with tip #1 and #2, because it allows you to see how much better you got over the last few weeks, months or even years.

However, it also lets you choose your own opportunities to challenge yourself as I mentioned above. Also, you can use your diary to write down how you felt that certain day, which can be especially helpful if you were feeling not so well at first, but motivated yourself to crush that workout anyway. This way you will be able to motivate yourself at the start of another WOD, even if you feel tired or stressed.

4. CONCENTRATE ON THE IMPORTANT STUFF AND DON’T DO ANYTHING HALFHEARTEDLY 

„Multitasking is weakness“, declares Ben Bergeron, one of the most famous Crossfit-trainers in the world.

By multitasking „you’re basically half-assing the things that you’re doing. You’re giving everything and everyone less than what you could and should be giving them“, his wife Heather writes on Ben’s blog, builtbybergeron.com.

Why is this important for coping with bad training days and general life? Well, there can be multiple reasons for having a bad training day – like I said before, maybe you had trouble at work or aren’t feeling well. But if you’re half-assing your way through a workout by thinking „oh, well, I don’t think I am motivated enough today for Crossfit, so I will just go easy on myself“, you’re bound to have a bad training day for sure, because in the end you will know that you could have done better.

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That means, if you know or anticipate that maybe your workout may not go as planned or that you can’t give it your all that day, concentrate on the important things during your workout. In fact, this is what’s great about Crossfit: There is always something you are probably pretty good at in a WOD – therefore you have to concentrate on that if you feel like you’re going to have a bad day.

You’re good at doing Squats, but hate Pistols? Great, then challenge yourself with the Squats and afterwards try to get through the Pistols at a pace you can manage – just do one thing at a time and concentrate on the task at hand. Try to regain your focus (you can do that with some controlled breathing excercises for example) and put every effort you may have left on the next few repetition(s).

5. DO SOMETHING YOU’RE GOOD AT TO INCREASE YOUR MOTIVATION

Let’s say all of the above tips haven’t worked. You still feel totally crushed, physically and psychologically, by the bad workout you just had. At this point – after your workout – you have two options to make yourself feel better:

  1. Do something you know you’re good at and try to break your own record, if you feel like it – but don’t go overboard or you will possibly fuel your frustration further.
  2. Work on something you’re pretty bad at or just can’t do – certain gymnastic movements for example – and try it until you manage to improve or execute the movement you could not do before.

To get the motivational boost you need, take a movement you have been working on for a while and which won’t need that much more practice. For me, this exercise was Box Jumps: I knew I had the strength to jump on a Box, it was just that my head didn’t allow me to execute a full jump onto the Box. Therefore I took some time after class, just me and the box, and tried the jump over and over until I finally made it. After I did, I jumped around the whole room, because I was so happy that I had beat my fear.

That is why trying to do stuff you weren’t able to perform before will give you a huge motivational boost. Just take your time with this and concentrate on the task – if you’re rushing yourself you will probably fail and just make things worse.

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In the end, you have to remember that nobody is perfect and everybody started from humble beginnings. Even if none of the above tips work for you this time, the next day nobody will ask you about your workout anymore and you’ve got a clean plate again. Here is a quote from Michael Caine to help put things 

Why do we we fall? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up again

How do you recover from a bad training day? Lets us know in the comments below.

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About The Author

When I am not working on my PhD in history, I am spending my time as a freelance writer and Crossfit enthusiast. I found Crossfit in August 2015 and have been almost living at my Box. Before I tried many different sports and finally got into weightlifting in 2013. At around the same time I discovered paleo, which helped me get back on track with my bad eating habits. Since then I have imbibed loads of information on the subjects and try to help others ...

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